ByDesign 2020 – Dream Tech: Designing the Gateway to Infinity
Sliding scale admission: $5–15, please pay what you can
Everybody dreams. Dream tech – devices and applications that directly interface with our dreams at night – is no longer the stuff of sci-fi stories like Inception and Black Mirror. Recent advancements in neurotechnology are making it possible not only to peer into the dreaming brain, but to influence it. As a new wave of entrepreneurs and technologists push past the boundary of consciousness, profound questions arise about what this all means for the future. Is the most mysterious human frontier now fair game for technological intervention?
This talk offers an overview and discussion of the nascent industry of dream tech and poses questions to the design community about the role of ethical design in an emerging tech space with universal resonance. A few examples of dream tech will be presented, such as wearable devices that attempt to induce lucid dreams – dreams in which you are aware of the fact that you’re dreaming and may exert control over the dream narrative. Meanwhile, neuromarketers are waking up to the mouth-watering potential of a good night’s sleep as eight hours of perfectly passive, untapped advertising real estate.
Western dream science is still in its infancy, but attempts to productize research findings are well underway. How can we take stock of the implications of this moment for dream tech design in the years ahead? And how can designers participate proactively in the development of dream tech for social good?
The program will begin with a presentation on dream tech and footage from a sci-fi documentary project by Courtney Sheehan, followed by discussion with Aleena Chia, an ethnographer of gaming cultures and author of Virtual Lucidity, an essay that uses media archaeology to examine the history of dream tech.
Courtney Sheehan is a dream tech researcher, business strategist, and filmmaker based in Los Angeles. Previously, she was Executive and Artistic Director for Northwest Film Forum. Currently in development on a sci-fi docuseries about dream tech, Courtney is immersed in researching dream science and developing connections with the scientists, technologists, researchers and dream practitioners working in this emerging space. A version of this talk was previously presented at the Interaction Design Association 2020 conference in Milan.
Aleena Chia is an ethnographer of gaming cultures. She is Assistant Professor in the School of Communication at Simon Fraser University. She researches practices at the margins of the digital and analogue, and in the interstices of work and play. Her work addresses gaming’s boundary work as structuring categories in post-Fordism, as achievement systems in player communities, and as moral calculations in the New Economy. In addition to ethnographic and qualitative approaches, she uses media archaeology and critical discourse analysis to study marginal forms of media: artefacts such as neuro-wearables for lucid dreaming and movements such as digital minimalism in social media disconnection. Her goal across these projects is to politicize the emotional and spiritual undercurrents of instrumental rationality in digital media.
Dr. Chia received her PhD in Communication and Culture from Indiana University Bloomington in 2017 and was a postdoctoral researcher at the Academy of Finland’s Centre of Excellence in Game Culture Studies in 2018. Her work has been supported by training from the School of Criticism and Theory, funding from the Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research, and an internship at Microsoft Research New England’s Social Media Collective.
Aleena is available to advise MA & PhD student projects in Critical Game Studies, Ethnography of Media, Digital Labour, and Techno-spirituality.
Photo credit: Jenna Toivonen / University of Tampere